Simon Middleton, “Changing Forms of Value: The Shift to Paper Money in Eighteenth-Century America” | National Humanities Center


Simon Middleton, “Changing Forms of Value: The Shift to Paper Money in Eighteenth-Century America”

May 29, 2020

We tend to think of money as a familiar object that plays a role in our everyday lives. However, when we consider the changing nature of currency in colonial America, money appears differently—as a “social technology for the distribution of value.” Because money allows individuals to represent and share value in direct and visible ways, the transition to the use of paper money in the United States in the eighteenth century supplemented social connections derived from transactions and bolstered economic consumption.

In this podcast, historian Simon Middleton from the College of William & Mary discusses how his work participates in interdisciplinary discourses to examine the cultural, legal, and social dimensions of money. His reflections reach into the present moment by considering how the COVID-19 pandemic and previous recessions make us confront the ways that such financial crises are not necessarily a result of a lack of money, but the result of an uneven division and distribution of global value.

Simon Middleton
Simon Middleton, College of William & Mary
Simon Middleton earned his PhD from the City University of New York Graduate Center in 1998 and taught at the University of East Anglia and the University of Sheffield before coming to William & Mary in 2018. He has published From Privileges to Rights: Work and Politics in Colonial New York City (Philadelphia, 2005) and articles in, for example, the William and Mary Quarterly, the Journal of Early American Studies, and the American Journal of Legal History. He has co-edited two collections of essays, with Billy G. Smith, Class Matters: Early North America and the Atlantic World (Philadelphia, 2008) and, with James Shaw, Market Ethics and Practices, 1300–1850 (Abingdon, 2018). He is currently completing a study of the introduction of paper money to the eighteenth-century middle colonies, New York and Pennsylvania. His specialization is early American social history and political economy.